Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Onward Christian Soldiers

I remember that when I was a young boy, living in the Rhondda Valley, my father would get very annoyed at the fairly regular Sunday visits of the Salvation Army, who would have a band playing in the street and then knock at the door, asking for money. He became especially angry one day when I gave the paper-money (the money that was supposed to be used to buy the Sunday newspapers) to the Sally Army.

At least they didn't try conversion tactics.

Lately, we've been plagued by hordes of Christians calling on us at unearthly hours of the morning. Ding-blooming-dong goes the doorbell at something like ten in the morning, when all good Christians and even sensible folk should be either asleep or just waking up, especially in the depths of winter.

Several weeks ago a group arrived at what was, admittedly, a rather more sensible hour. "Are you a believer," or something was the introduction offered by He Who Clearly Looked Upon Himself As The Leader.

"No, I'm an atheist."


The rest is history.

Less than two weeks ago I was in the middle of my ablutions and She Who Must Be Obeyed was equally employed, though in a different bathroom, I hasten to add, when ding-dong goes the bell. There's me, thinking that this must be something really important for another human to be round and about at such a time, so a quick rub down with a towel, on with a dressing-gown and off to the front door: four turns of the key, pull back the dead-lock and open the door to see two oldies (well men of about my age, actually) standing at the gate with grins on their face, one of them bearing a remarkable likeness to Carrol's Cheshire Cat. It was The Cat that spoke. "Good morning, sir!" Yes, he called me "Sir." I suspect he noticed my dishevelled state, my dressing-gown, and my look of bewilderment. "We are on a small Christian mission…" Well, that was quite enough for me.

"I'm an atheist," I announced and promptly shut the door.

And then, just yesterday morning, there's me, sitting on the pot, contemplating my navel and expelling substances previously ingested, when ding-blumming-dong again. SWMBO was still in bed, but moved herself, presumably in recognition of my somewhat disturbing condition. Not that her condition was much better, of course: a hastily donned dressing-gown and a hairstyle van ik zal je hebben. Anyway, open the front-door she did. Turns out that this time it's a couple of old women (well, about my age, so that's old enough).

"Oh, did we wake you up?"


"Can we leave you some literature to read?" (And SWMBO swears she could hear a sort of sub-vocal "Amen" to follow.)


And the door was closed.

Okay, they believe what they want to and they are entitled to do so. But they are not entitled to annoy us by ringing or doorbell and trying to alter our opinions. Just imagine the uproar there would be if a group of Muslims were to travel from house to house trying to convert people to Islam! The Christians (the good side, of course — the ones who organised the Crusades that killed tens of thousands, the ones that wiped out the Cathars because they chose a different lifestyle, the ones that supported Hitler and Franco…) would be up in arms, there would be questions in Parliament, headlines, threats of civil disturbance… So, what's the difference.

Sing to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers

Onward Christian soldiers
Walk on past my door
Don't ring at the doorbell
Don't call any more
I don't want the message
That you wish to give
I don't share your feelings
I'm an atheist.

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